Prime Minister Gordon Brown Won’t Back Bid to Support Assisted Suicide Tourism

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 23, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Prime Minister Gordon Brown Won’t Back Bid to Support Assisted Suicide Tourism

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 23
, 2009

London, England ( — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he will not back a bid by a group of more than 100 MPs to legalize so-called suicide tourism. The members of Parliament have signed a motion calling for debate on a measure to legalize the practice.

Their move follows the decision by a couple suffering from cancer to travel to Switzerland to die at the Dignitas clinic in Zurich.

The politicians have signed Early Day Motion 230 which expresses concern about "the choices that some terminally ill adults are being forced to make" because assisted suicide is illegal in the UK. They say there is the chance for the law to be changed via the Coroners and Justice Bill.

But a spokesman for Brown says the Prime Minister has retained his long-held beliefs that assisted suicide is wrong, but that he also believes Parliament is entitled to vote on the matter.

In December, when asked about assisted suicide at prime minister’s questions, Brown said: "I believe that it is necessary to ensure that there is never a case in this country where a sick or elderly person feels under pressure to agree to an assisted death or somehow feels it is the expected thing to do. That is why I have always opposed legislation for assisted deaths."

At that time, Brown said he would block any legislation to legalize assisted suicide and he said he believed British law should make “absolutely clear” that it recognizes the value of human life.

"I am totally against laws [allowing assisted suicide or euthanasia]," Brown said. "It is not really for us to create any legislation that would put pressure on people to feel they had to offer themselves because they were causing trouble to a relative or anyone else."

On Friday, the prime minister’s spokesman said that this was still Brown’s view.

The representative also said Brown does not favor adding an assisted suicide amendment to the bill but said the suicide tourism measure should be debated as a stand-alone bill.

Peter Saunders, the director of the Care Not Killing alliance, told the London Guardian that suicide tourism should not be allowed.

"The government is, commendably, trying to protect vulnerable people by tightening up the Suicide Act to outlaw web sites that encourage suicide," he explained.

"And yet here we have the euthanasia lobby trying, at the same time and in the same bill, to encourage suicide by removing any risk of prosecution for anyone assisting someone to go abroad for euthanasia or assisted suicide," Saunders added.

"The result would be a law that discouraged suicide with one hand and encouraged it with the other. That would be farcical as well as tragic," he continued.

Patricia Hewitt, the former health minister, is the sponsor of the amendment that could be added to the Coroners & Justice Bill.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) is calling on pro-life advocates to contact their MPs to oppose the amendment.

"The amendment’s effect would be to make it lawful to help anyone travel to a country where so-called assisted dying is legal so that they can commit suicide," SPUC told

The move to officially legalize suicide tourism follows a February ruling from Britain’s top judge saying courts will not uphold prosecution charges against families who take their loved ones to other countries to die by assisted suicide.

The case involved Debbie Purdy, who wants her husband not to go to prison for taking her to a Swiss euthanasia center.

The Bill will be discussed on April 23 and 24 in the House of Commons.

ACTION: MPs can be contacted by email via or by telephone through the House of Commons switchboard number 020 7219 3000.

Related web sites:

Sign Up for Free Pro-Life News From

Daily Pro-Life News Report Twice-Weekly Pro-Life
News Report
Receive a free daily email report from with the latest pro-life news stories on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here. Receive a free twice-weekly email report with the latest pro-life news headlines on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here.